Chapter 27: - Page 2 of 8

The Friar and the Filipino

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

For more than eight years I have been a professor here, resumed Padre Fernandez, still continuing to pace back and forth, and in that time I’ve known and dealt with more than twenty-five hundred students. I’ve taught them, I’ve tried to educate them, I’ve tried to inculcate in them principles of justice and of dignity, and yet in these days when there is so much murmuring against us I’ve not seen one who has the temerity to maintain his accusations when he finds himself in the presence of a friar, not even aloud in the presence of any numbers.  Young men there are who behind our backs calumniate us and before us kiss our hands, with a base smile begging kind looks from us! Bah! What do you wish that we should do with such creatures?

The fault is not all theirs, Padre, replied Isagani.  The fault lies partly with those who have taught them to be hypocrites, with those who have tyrannized over freedom of thought and freedom of speech.  Here every independent thought, every word that is not an echo of the will of those in power, is characterized as filibusterism, and you know well enough what that means.  A fool would he be who to please himself would say aloud what he thinks, who would lay himself liable to suffer persecution!

What persecution have you had to suffer? asked Padre Fernandez, raising his head.  Haven’t I let you express yourself freely in my class? Nevertheless, you are an exception that, if what you say is true, I must correct, so as to make the rule as general as possible and thus avoid setting a bad example.

Isagani smiled.  I thank you, but I will not discuss with you whether I am an exception. I will accept your qualification so that you may accept mine: you also are an exception, and as here we are not going to talk about exceptions, nor plead for ourselves, at least, I mean, I’m not, I beg of my professor to change the course of the conversation.

In spite of his liberal principles, Padre Fernandez raised his head and stared in surprise at Isagani.  That young man was more independent than he had thought—although he called him professor, in reality he was dealing with him as an equal, since he allowed himself to offer suggestions.  Like a wise diplomat, Padre Fernandez not only recognized the fact but even took his stand upon it.

Good enough! he said. But don’t look upon me as your professor.  I’m a friar and you are a Filipino student, nothing more nor less! Now I ask you—what do the Filipino students want of us?

The question came as a surprise; Isagani was not prepared for it.  It was a thrust made suddenly while they were preparing their defense, as they say in fencing. Thus startled, Isagani responded with a violent stand, like a beginner defending himself.

That you do your duty! he exclaimed.

Fray Fernandez straightened up—that reply sounded to him like a cannon-shot.  That we do our duty! he repeated, holding himself erect.  Don’t we, then, do our duty? What duties do you ascribe to us?

Learn this Filipino word:

bisig ng batás